Woman Physician Assures Parents Their Daughter Will Not Face as Harsh a Path as Predecessors

Congratulations on your daughter’s acceptance into medical school.  Like the first day of kindergarten, this launch is notable for parents as well as children. You may have some concerns about the stresses she will face. Having been there, I can tell you there will be many.  Not to worry, though. Times are changing.

So begins an open letter to the parents of female medical students (but really written for the students themselves, natch) by Dr. Kathy Stepien writing for the blog KevinMD.com. The rest of the message paints a dark picture of what women faced in the bad old days in medical school, residency and beyond: Rampant sexism, extending from hazing and mockery to outright assault and career sabotage.

You may have heard some stories. I want to reassure you that no one will throw things at her or hit your daughter. Repeatedly. Every day. Even after she tells them not to. No one will knock her to the ground or inadvertently stab her when they are in a fit of rage. No one will demand to use her arm as a whiteboard. No one will ever page her to a call room to try to sexually assault her.

How much Stepien believes these and many, many other outrages culled from the experiences of female doctors have really passed completely into the annals of history is unclear; she sounds more than a little tongue-in-cheek when she exults, “This is 2016! You can rest assured her attendings will not text naked selfies. Or lewd email messages the night before her evaluation is due.”

Hopefully, however, things are not quite as bad as they were.

She will never be told that sexual harassment is just a part of the curriculum. No one will ever tell her she is just a pretty face and won’t amount to anything.  She will not be singled out to make copies and get coffee. She will never be told that women make better nurses than doctors.  No one will tell her she doesn’t smile enough. No one will tell her he wants to see her in a cat fight. No one will yell at her for not wearing make-up, for wearing too much make-up, for wearing clothing that is not expensive, clothing that is too revealing or not revealing enough, for taking pride in her appearance or for not taking pride in her appearance.

She will not be held back due to a fear that her excellence will limit a man’s career. She will never be told she can’t choose a certain specialty simply because she is a woman. And when she is not told that, an attending will never make reference to her genitals. She will never be asked, either alone or in front of a group of men, what she will give in exchange for an honors grade. No one will make decisions about her career advancement based upon whether she does or might someday have children.  No one will dismiss her ideas simply because she is a woman. No one will praise her male colleagues who take her ideas and present them as their own. No one will selectively limit her salary and raises.

To read the entire letter, click here.

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